The City of Keizer adopted a Statement of Values in December, touching on aspects of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
The statement includes, among other elements, a definition of white supremacy as well as a condemnation of it; recognition of historical laws and policies that maintained discrimination and disparity; recognition of all gender identities and sexual orientations; a nod to the Tribal Nations that once inhabited the land; and a “commitment to ensure that all members of the community are free from acts that are rooted in racism, discrimination, intolerance, bigotry and hostility.”
Now the city council is forming a Community Diversity Engagement Committee to advise it on putting actions behind that statement that was unanimously approved by councilors.
Writing and approving the Statement of Values should have been the hard part, forming an advisory committee comprised of a diverse membership should be easy. Yet, in today’s political climate, the hardest part of assuring equity and inclusion may be ahead of us.
There were different thoughts expressed at this week’s city council meeting on how to appoint members. As originally conceived, the mayor would appoint the nine members—including two councilors, a youth member and six at-large members chosen from the community. Some want each city councilor to appoint one member, much like the way members of the Volunteer Coordinating Committee (VCC) are chosen.
Some have concerns about this way of appointing members to a committee advising on diversity. Would politics play too much of a role in appointments? Without input from the VCC or a vote of approval on each appointee from the entire council, would we achieve the diversity we seek?
An issue with each councilor appointing a member to the committee is some potential members might not be aware of the committee. Issuing a community-wide call for applications for appointment will cast a much wider net than individual councilor appointments. The work of this committee will garner much interest and attention, especially those who represent traditionally under-represented groups.
Keizer is made up of a tapestry of races and backgrounds. If Keizer truly wants to live up to its Statement of Values, it owes it to its citizens to assure that the membership of the Community Diversity Engagement Committee is culled from those we rarely see in such roles.
If we want engagement from the many different people that call Keizer home, it is an absolute that these groups are welcomed and embraced. Committee members should apply, just as with any other city commmittee or board, interview with the Volunteer Coordinating Committee and face a final vote from the city council. That is the fairest and most transparent process. —LAZ